Friday 25 December 2015
Yesterday I had the honour of leading the Christmas Day service for our congregation. I talked briefly about "the feelings of Christmas" vs "the facts of Christmas".
Growing up in New Zealand, Christmas was (and is) an wonderful mix of traditions --- fake snow under the summer sun, Santa suits by the beach, hearty puddings under blossoming pohutukawa trees, family gatherings, gifts, carols, swimming and sunscreen. These traditions produce a palpable feeling of Christmas. In my youth I devalued such feelings, on the grounds that Mr Spock was right and emotion should never displace reason as the sole regulator of one's mental state. (Yes, I was a twerp.)
Later I became a Christian, and my perspective changed. I found that emotions have their proper place --- as a response to truth, not a determiner of it. If Jesus lives, joy and awe are the proper response. More importantly, Christmas is not just tradition and feelings: it has facts behind it, world-changing facts that make Christmas Christmas no matter how we feel about it. God himself became present in the world, in a child, to reestablish a relationship between us and himself. Christmas carols produce Christmassy feelings, but they also recite facts. We can sing them and mean them, and the meaning justifies the feelings.
This is especially relevant during hard times. Suffering doesn't cease during Christmas, and Christmas feelings may be absent, but the facts of Christmas persist no matter what. Thank God for that.